1300 SE Morrison Street, 239-0196
I've had a turbulent relationship with eggs Benedict. At first, I was skeptical of a dish made of poached eggs topped with more eggs. Of course I got over it, because like most things full of fat, it sounds gross but tastes delicious.
But only when done right. Way too many restaurants think they can just capitalize on tons of butter and eggs, and no additional flavor. Having been a convert for several years now, I go through addictive phases in which I want eggs Benedict at every meal; I've affectionately nicknamed them eggs Ben, and I spend Sunday mornings scoping restaurants for them.
Zell's Café is my new favorite. In a departure from traditional Portland-style breakfast places, Zell's is not covered wall to wall with 2-inches of grease. Nor is it too pretentious--just lots of light and windows, cool old pictures of random people, and cute, sweet wait staff.
But all that is just a bonus. Like I said, the reason to go there is the eggs ben. Their secret is all in the hollandaise, which is made with lots of lemon and butter, whipped up to a sauce which tastes deceptively light--it has a fluffy citrus purity that will hook you on the first bite.
The ham is also key in this dish, since it serves as the only buffer in texture from the extra egginess (it was one of the things that finally helped me get over my egg on egg phobia.) Zell's uses a delicate slice, toasted enough so the smoky flavor becomes a slightly chewy complement to all that smooth sauce.
They use the same sauce in the salmon Benedict (salmon instead of ham), and the eggs Florentine (spinach instead of ham, for wimpy meat-o-phobes.) But there's a reason eggs benedict is traditionally made with ham and not salmon, because the hollandaise doesn't have as much opportunity to dominate as it does with the ham. Though fresh and tender, the salmon competes too much with the sauce, mixing two distinct flavors that shouldn't be presented so strongly.
But if you're like me, you wouldn't stray from eggs Benedict done proper anyway. If you're a fellow addict, order eggs Benedict at Zell's. You won't be sorry.